Mayors Reelected in Two Cities that Saw Extensive Protests

In this July 26, 2020 photo, Federal officers launch tear gas at a group of demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore.

In this July 26, 2020 photo, Federal officers launch tear gas at a group of demonstrators during a Black Lives Matter protest at the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse in Portland, Ore. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez, File

 

Connecting state and local government leaders

The mayors of Portland, Oregon and Richmond, Virginia will both move on to another term. Meanwhile, new mayors will take office in Baltimore, Honolulu and Miami-Dade.

The incumbent mayors of Portland, Oregon and Richmond, Virginia—two cities roiled this year by protests related to police conduct and racial injustice—both won reelection this week.

Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler defeated challenger Sarah Iannarone, with results Thursday showing him with 46% of the vote.

Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney declared victory in his race on Wednesday. Stoney had 37% of the vote.

Trailing him were councilwoman Kimberly Gray and Alexsis Rodgers, who is the Virginia state director for Care in Action, a policy and advocacy group for domestic workers. They each took about 26% of the vote. Three other candidates were behind in the single digits.

In Florida, Miami-Dade County elected its first female mayor and the office, while technically nonpartisan, will change hands from a Republican to a Democrat.

Baltimore and Honolulu will get new mayors as well, while an incumbent mayor hung onto her seat in Phoenix. 

Wheeler has faced criticism on multiple fronts for his handling of the protests. Protesters and others assailed him for tactics used by police, while President Trump attacked him for not doing enough to control unrest and he’s had public disagreements with his police department.

Iannarone, an urban policy consultant, positioned herself left of Wheeler on issues like policing and homelessness, calling for sharp police funding cuts and ending homelessness camp sweeps. She tapped a city public campaign financing program to fund her run.

Wheeler has indicated he wants to focus in his second term on housing affordability and homelessness issues, the city’s economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as public safety reforms.

[For local coverage of the Portland race see: The Oregonian and Oregon Public Radio]

Stoney this year ordered the removal of Confederate statues in Richmond. But, he too, confronted a backlash over how the city handled protests, specifically related to the police department’s use of tear gas and other crowd control weapons. In June, the mayor ousted the city police chief following standoffs between police and protestors.

As in many cities, the coronavirus and law enforcement loomed over the campaign, but other topics came up as well. 

Rodgers keyed in on policing issues, including what she saw as overly aggressive tactics in response to protests, while also calling for police cuts. Gray, meanwhile, opposed a failed plan that the mayor supported to redevelop a local coliseum and the neighborhood around it, and she also called for an investigation into a contract the city awarded for the Confederate statue removal.  

Stoney emphasized his efforts to improve Richmond’s schools, as well as other programs geared towards equity and helping low income families, like a program focused on preventing evictions and pushing to expand park access in areas where it’s been lacking.

[Local coverage: Richmond Times-Dispatch on results and Stoney profile, VPM public radio]

In the mayor's race in Miami-Dade County, a locality with about 2.7 million residents, Daniella Levine Cava, a county commissioner, defeated her commission colleague, Esteban “Steve” Bovo, Jr. Levine Cava captured nearly 54% of the vote compared to Bovo’s 46%

Bovo, a Republican who aligned himself with President Trump, warned of the risks of “defunding” the police. But Levine Cava pointed to her record supporting police funding. 

The two have had a number of differences over the years during their time on the commission on various policy issues, including sanctuary cities and land use decisions. Earlier this year, Levine Cava backed a proposal for a police civilian review panel that Bovo opposed.

Levine Cava is the first candidate without a Hispanic background to win a county mayoral race in Miami-Dade since the early 1990s and the first Democrat in about two decades, according to the Miami Herald. Her victory came as Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden underperformed his party’s expectations in the county.

The mayor-elect will replace Carlos Giménez, a Cuban-American Republican who was term-limited as mayor, and who won a U.S. House race this week, unseating a Democratic incumbent. 

[Local coverage: Miami Herald on results, on policy differences between candidates]

Baltimore will also get a new mayor. Council President Brandon Scott, 36, will become the youngest person to hold the job. He won with a commanding 70% of the vote over Bob Wallace, a businessman who ran without a party affiliation.

Scott, a Democrat, will take over the position from Bernard C. “Jack” Young, also a Democrat, who filled the role after former Mayor Catherine Pugh resigned last year during a fraud scandal. Pugh is currently serving a federal prison term.

Voters in Baltimore are also poised to approve a number of city charter amendments designed to curtail the power the city’s mayor now has. 

One, backed by Scott, calls for hiring a city administrator to oversee day-to-day municipal operations. Another would enable the council to remove a mayor or council members for misconduct with a three-quarters majority vote, while others would make council overrides of mayoral vetoes easier and boost the council’s sway over the budget.

[Local coverage: The Baltimore Sun on mayor’s race results, on charter amendments]

In Phoenix, Mayor Kate Gallego​ won reelection with over 60% of the vote as of Thursday. Republican competitor Merissa Hamilton was seen as a long-shot. Gallego, who took office after winning a special election in 2019, has at times vocally criticized the state for taking too lax an approach to combatting the coronavirus and has advocated for more testing and mask requirements.

[Local Coverage: Azcentral.com, Phoenix New Times]

Honolulu is one of the other cities getting a new mayor. Rick Blangiardi, a former television executive, will replace term-limited Mayor Kirk Caldwell. With nearly 60% of the vote, Blangiardi beat out competitor Keith Amemiya, previously an insurance executive and also a past director of the Hawaii High School Athletic Association.

Blangiardi has characterized himself as a fiscal conservative and scored a key police union endorsement during the campaign. While he has cautioned against being too quick to blame law enforcement in situations where people are injured by police, Blangiardi also says he’d like to see more transparency with the local police department.

He has embraced a “tough love” approach to homelessness, and has suggested people who are living outside, but refuse to accept shelter, or drug or mental health care offered by the government, should potentially be arrested. Blangiardi has mentioned possibly imposing taxes on vacant homes, or considering higher property taxes for hotels as ways to raise additional city revenue.

[Local coverage: Honolulu Star Advertiser on results, Honolulu Civil Beat profile of Blangiardi]

Bill Lucia is a senior reporter for Route Fifty and is based in Olympia, Washington.

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